Using Salt Ayre Leisure Centre as a base, a combination of Foodbank volunteers, including a team from Lancaster Search and Rescue and council staff, have been working together to launch a large emergency food operation.
It will pack and deliver parcels to vulnerable residents who need them and has already prepared and shipped food parcels to people's homes, schools, and charities in the area.
At the same time, schools, churches, charities, councillors, health professionals and others have been invited to become referring agents to this service so that they can refer residents for a food parcel by filling in an online voucher form.
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A new website, lancasterdistrictcovid19.org.uk, will go live soon so that the service can be run without the need for paper vouchers.
It will also have FAQs for the public and a list of referring agencies so that people can get help if they need it and agencies can refer people online.
The Olive Branch, which operates Lancaster's food bank, is continuing to provide food parcels for those who need them in Lancaster.
The food parcels are now delivered to people's homes.
Those requiring a food parcel or organisations referring people should do so via 01524 555715 or [email protected]
Councillor Dr Erica Lewis, leader of Lancaster City Council, said: "As a society, we have a duty to protect our most vulnerable members. We know that this public health crisis has made it increasingly difficult for people to access food, particularly those who were already struggling to make ends meet. This makes the work of food banks, food clubs and food projects across the district even more important.
“As a council we have a duty to be at the forefront of the response and have set aside £1million to support vulnerable people, through our partners in the voluntary, community and faith sector. We’re very pleased to be working with Morecambe Bay Foodbank, and other local charities and organisations, to get help to where it's needed during this difficult time.”
The team has been working with schools, the NHS, Social Services and other local foodbanks and charities to identify residents in need and will be aiming to deliver food parcels to people’s homes within 24 hours.
The project will require volunteers once it is up and running and anyone interested in volunteering to help can register with Lancaster District CVS by filling in this form: Lancaster.gov.uk/cvs-volunteers.
Joanna Young, Chair of Trustees for Morecambe Bay Foodbank, said: "We are expecting very high demand from a variety of different groups in our district during this pandemic. We were worried that we wouldn't be able to help enough people so we are delighted to be working in partnership with Lancaster City Council and other charities so that we can scale up the operation and provide as many people as we can with the basics if they are struggling."
Annette Smith, Foodbank Manager at Morecambe Bay Foodbank, added: "We are urgently in need of food donations so if you are shopping, please think of the Foodbank and donate to us at our supermarket donation points in the area."
The website will be live at lancasterdistrictcovid19.org.uk. Local charities and other organisations are encouraged to sign up to be agencies so that as many people can be helped as possible. Any organisations with enquiries can ring the team on 01524 932 001 or email them at [email protected]
Lancaster City Council has also made more than 350 payments totalling nearly £1m to local businesses as part of a package of measures to help support them through the coronavirus pandemic.
Although government funding is not expected to be released until early in April, the city council is making cash advances of up to £2,500 for businesses in receipt of Small Business Rates Relief and eligible for the £10,000 government grant announced in the Budget.
This money will help to support them with their urgent cashflow needs now, with the balance of the grant being paid as soon as central government funding is issued to the council.